getting wet. He has removed his leather jacket and shirt, and I can appreciate his six-pack and build from where I float lazily. The gangly boy I left has morphed into a very attractive man. His tattoos are completely different to Elliot’s – mostly gang related – and when he turns to look up the beach, I catch sight of his Gypsy Brothers tattoo. It looks identical to the one Dornan sports, and my stomach roils. Turn around, Jase.
He does, wading in a little deeper so that the water laps at his ankles. “Come out here, you pussy,” I tease him.
“My jeans’ll get wet,” he says. I stick my lip out and pout dramatically. He laughs at that.
“The water’s soooo good,” I say. He fishes his keys and cellphone out of his pocket, throwing them on the sand just out of the water’s reach. Nobody will touch them. He’s a Gypsy Brother. They pretty much own Venice Beach.
He strides into the water, up to his knees. The bottom of his jeans are immediately soaked with salt water.
“Further,” I call, kicking backwards.
He shakes his head and doesn’t move. I swim towards him, a devilish grin on my face. “Don’t–” he warns, but before he can finish his sentence, I pull his arms, making him keel over into the water. He surfaces, laughing and spluttering, and my heart feels a little less heavy.
“Thanks,” he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Welcome,” I reply. “Told you the water was good.”
He just shakes his head, smiling in amusement.
He watches the horizon for a moment before speaking more seriously. “So are you, like, my dad’s old lady now?”
I almost choke. “What?” I splutter.
“My pop. Are you guys, like, an item?”
My smile is completely gone, and I press my feet firmly to the sand beneath us. But he has posed an interesting question. Does Dornan consider us in a relationship, no matter how short our acquaintance has been, no matter how blatantly dysfunctional?
“I don’t know,” I say honestly. Because I don’t. The unexpected closeness with Dornan has presented both a blessing and a curse – I have unparalleled access to him, his club, and his sons, but at the same time, if I continue, I will have to spend the majority of my time with the person I hate more than anything in the entire world, the person who ripped my entire existence apart and stole everything I ever cared about.
“I think he’s pretty smitten,” Jase says, and I don’t know what I hear in his voice – jealousy? Resignation?
I shrug. “I only just met the man. All I wanted was a job at your burlesque club.”
I didn’t want him to shoot my supposed ex-boyfriend – an innocent stranger – and then hold a gun to my head.
“My father’s not the kind of person you say no to,” he says seriously, squinting into the sun.
“And here we are,” I reply.
He doesn’t talk for a few moments, and I use the time to swim in a slow circle around him.
“I’m sorry about my brother, hopped up on fucking energy drinks,” he says finally.
“Pardon?” I ask, stopping my breaststroke. I float in front of him, then put my feet back onto firm sand.
“Chad,” he says, chewing his lip thoughtfully. “People always think he’s high, but he’s not. He drinks those goddamn guarana drinks from the minute he gets up in the morning. Guy’s gonna have a heart attack one of these days. I’ve tried telling him, but …”
I can only imagine how that conversation went.
“I like those drinks,” I say, laughing. “Almost as much as I like beer.”
“Don’t touch the ones in the fridge back at the clubhouse,” he says. “Chad’ll murder you in your sleep. They’re all his apparently.”
I smile vacantly, a twisted idea beginning to form in my mind.
Guy’s gonna have a heart attack one of these days.
My smile turns into a shit-eating grin.
“What?” Jase asks, flicking water in my face.
“Nothing,” I say, flicking water back. “I was just thinking about how good that beer
Sylvia Day, Allison Brennan, Lori G. Armstrong
Carrie Alexander Lori Wilde Susan Donovan Lora Leigh